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‘You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium’. It’s not often the CW Blog opens with lines from a song, let alone a 21st century chart-topper by a French DJ. But regardless of how you feel about David Guetta or his songwriting vocalist Sia, they were certainly onto something with their sentiments.

Titanium, a material with the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element, was first discovered by clergyman William Gregor in Cornwall in 1791 – pretty good going for somebody who only studied geology as a hobby! – and its reputation has only blossomed since.

Lightweight yet reassuringly robust, its properties have seen it become the go-to choice for manufacturers across a range of industries. Here are just a few of its practical applications:

Aircraft fuselage 

Lockheed SR-71 BlackbirdImage: The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

Whilst aluminium is used in the construction of many aircraft due to its strength and low density, its melting temperature properties simply wouldn’t suffice in the case of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a surveillance aircraft that set an absolute speed record of Mach 3.3 (2,193.2 mph; 3,529.6 km/h). Titanium was used in 85% of its structure and exterior specifically due to its higher melting point and resistance to cavitation; essential for a plane travelling at supersonic speeds, and the high levels of friction, changes in pressure and shock waves that would entail from breaking the sound barrier.

Surgical implants

As some of us may be all too aware, our bodies aren’t as reliable as we’d like! With knees and other joints wearing away over time, or the occurrence of other unfortunate injuries, science has advanced to a stage that organic parts can be replaced by synthetic ones – and this is where titanium comes in. Its remarkably biocompatible: its density is similar to that of human bone, meaning the two can readily work together, allowing its use in situations such as replacement skeletal parts, sockets and more. Just as importantly, it’s durable: these titanium substitutes can be relied upon for decades.

Sporting equipment

In sports where the weight and efficiency of equipment is key, titanium once again comes up trumps. Lighter and stronger than steel, and with high fatigue strength, it’s used commonly in racing bike frames, bobsleighs, racing wheelchairs, tennis rackets and more.

Watches

With titanium finding its way into a variety of industries, it was only a matter of time before its introduction into the world of watchmaking – namely, in 1970’s Citizen X8 Chronometer. Its inclusion makes a lot of practical sense. Many watch cases are constructed from materials such as stainless steel or bronze; the former heavy and susceptible to scratches, the latter producing its own oxidized finish over time, and both potentially capable of reacting to its wearer’s wrist. Titanium’s biocompatibility negates this possibility, while its lightness and strength makes it perfect for use in dive and sports watches.

C60 Elite 1000 watch by Christopher Ward

Nowhere is this more evident than in the new C60 Elite 1000. As a dive watch water-resistant to depths of 1000m, you might expect it to have a considerable heft; perhaps, subconsciously, this is because we associate strength with weight. The Elite 1000’s Grade 2 titanium case both silences and redefines that logic. Weighing just 77g (and 133g when worn on its new full Grade 2 titanium bracelet option) it’ll sit discreetly on the wrist – but this isn’t a watch you’ll forget about. With an exhibition caseback revealing a decorated Sellita SW220 movement, a day/date complication and Grade X1 GL C1 Super-LumiNova® adorning its bezel, hands and indexes, the C60 Elite 1000 isn’t just a beautiful diver’s watch; this new open series model can be admired (and worn) by pretty much anyone.

C60 Elite 1000 - composition

Titanium banner image credit: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Alchemist-hp

Many people around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year – and we’re also getting involved in this special occasion at Christopher Ward. But why exactly is the Moon so special? And what impact has it had upon timekeeping throughout the ages? Here’s a quick breakdown.

What is the Lunar New Year?

As you may have probably guessed from its name, the Lunar New Year marks the first day of the year for calendars dictated by cycles of the Moon (as opposed to many western cultures who follow the Gregorian calendar). While predominantly celebrated in a number of Asian countries including China, Japan, Vietnam (‘Tết’), Korea (‘Seollal’), its influence can be felt all around the globe.

There are many theories as to how this tradition started and why its celebrations endure to this day. One legend tells the story of the Jade Emperor, who chose 12 animals to become palace guards. The traits of each animals, and their cunning to be first in line at the palace, would soon form the foundations for the Chinese Zodiac. And 2020? That would be the Year of the Rat!

The Chinese Zodiac

The tales don’t end there, where legend also includes a man-eating beast from the mountains. With this threat of evil, people quickly learned that the best way to rid the beast was with fireworks and explosions. These fireworks are now an emblem of celebration every Lunar New Year, scaring away any evil spirits for the coming months.

What’s the significance of Year of the Rat in 2020?

According to the Zodiac, the Rat has traits of saving and collecting, being financially skilled and leading organised lives. If you were born in the Year of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008), you might already be onto a winner! In particular, 2020 also marks the element of metal; the Metal Rat being renowned for turning unfortunate events into good fortune. It also represents the dualist concept of yang, and the beginning of a new day – who knows what this fresh opportunity might hold in store?

How does the Lunar New Year, or more specifically the Moon, impact watchmaking?

Like astrology, horology looks at time and the study of movements. The Moon plays a vital role in the lunar calendar, so it’s not a surprise that brilliant minds would eventually translate its constant passage across the sky into a series of gears, springs and wheels. Initially appearing in larger wall clocks, a notable example of one remains the Astronomical Clock, located upon the side of Old Town Hall in Prague – it remains the oldest operating astronomical clock in existence, having been finished in 1410.

World's oldest astronomical clock in Prague

Some 605 years later, Christopher Ward would reveal its own take on the moonphase complication: Calibre JJ04. Accurate to within a day every 128 years if kept wound, it also displays the true phases of the moon perpetually thanks to some delicate re-engineering of a Sellita SW220 base movement.

C1 Moonglow layers

JJ04 provides the enchanting backbone of our Lunar Collection, featuring two models: the luminescent C1 Moonglow and elegant C1 Grand Malvern Moonphase.

C1 Moonglow by Christopher Ward

C1 Moonphase by Christopher Ward

So in a week that sees many celebrating the start of a new year – and a prosperous one, we hope! – we also pay tribute to the celestial beauty that is the Moon. To our customers celebrating around the world, ‘Kung hei fat choi!’